If you’re longing for a peaceful escape to a place of extraordinary natural beauty, the twin islands of St. Kitts & Nevis in the Caribbean are perfect. As sugar production was the main industry here up until as recently as 2005, the tourist trade is still young, so everywhere feels wonderfully welcoming, refreshingly uncrowded and totally unspoilt.
St. Kitts is the larger of the two islands and this is where you will find picturesque green hills and magnificent plantation houses. A unique legacy of the former thriving sugar industry is the St. Kitts Scenic Railway, where passengers can ride for 18 miles along a narrow railroad that was originally built to transport the sugar cane.
Just two miles across the sea, and connected by a 10-minute water taxi ride, lies Nevis (pronounced “nee-vis” rather than “ne-vis” like Ben Nevis) – where time seems to have stood still. Nevis has a great deal of interesting history – one of America’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, was born here and this is also where Lord Nelson met and married Fanny Nisbet, whose family owned the Nisbet Plantation (now a luxury boutique hotel).
In common with all Caribbean islands, Nevis boasts plenty of pretty, powder-soft beaches but I think the real beauty of Nevis is its abundance of nature. Visitors who love to be active can go mountain biking through old sugar plantations, hiking along dense jungle trails or even compete in the annual two-and-a-half-mile swimming race from Nevis to St. Kitts (the next one is on 29th March 2020, should you be tempted).
On our recent trip to Nevis, in the spirit of adventure (and despite being more than a tad rusty in the saddle), fellow Turquoise colleague Melissa and I decided to try horse riding. The Nevis Equestrian Centre is run by Erica, an experienced horsewoman and patient guide. Erica invites guests to ride twice daily on a one-and-a-half-hour Beach & Trail Ride or Sunset Beach Ride. Beach horse riding is an awesome experience and, for many, it’s a bucket-list item. Our Beach & Trail Ride took us through shaded coconut tree groves and cute, local villages, where everybody seemed to know Erica, and our steeds, by name! We carried on past old forts, churches and derelict sugar mills before finally hitting the beach. With the cool breeze in our hair, we broke into a gentle trot and even ventured into the waves at one point, so remember to take along a small backpack to protect your electronic devices (and hold a bottle of water and some sunscreen). Erica has a policy whereby the pace is set by the least experienced rider, so nobody will feel uncomfortable or out of their depth. More advanced riders can book longer, private rides if they wish.
The 90 minutes flew by and before long it was time to ride our steeds back to Erica’s yard for a well-earned hay supper. Being a little saddle-sore, we decided we deserved a treat ourselves so headed to Sunshine’s, arguably the best beach bar on Nevis. Here, we rounded off a fun afternoon with one of the island’s famous Killer Bee rum cocktails – they’re strong and definitely took the sting out of our behinds!
I’ve been lucky enough to visit many beautiful islands in the Caribbean and have found each to have its own unique soul and character. But, for its old-fashioned charm and slice of authentic, rural island life, I think Nevis is the (killer) bee’s knees. Which is, I would imagine, just as Mother Nature intended!